Say Hi, Big Red

Hi, Big Red!


While it seems like our tiny house, one Big Red by name, has existed in our heads for years, Alan and I have only just this week begun actual construction. We’ll be sharing our trials, tribulations, and probably ER visits, with you here periodically, so without further ado, a little introduction:

My name is Marie, and Alan is my husband of approximately five years; we’re both in our early 30s, we work full-time, and own one dog and two cats. Although we both grew up in the Northeast, we’ve lived in Charlotte, NC, for over six years and own a 1700-square-foot home in a quiet bedroom neighborhood. Our building site is a small side yard, roughly ten yards from our (very patient and generous) neighbor’s house. I hope they like the sound of compressors on the morning breeze, but if not, we’re willing to supply alcoholic anesthesia.

We purchased Fencl plans from the Tumbleweed company last summer after a lot of “wouldn’t it be great” and “I bet this will freak you out” kind of conversations. As with many of life’s best decisions, there was beer involved. The trailer was ordered from Kaufman Trailers last fall.  While waiting for the trailer, then the welding on the trailer, Alan was purchasing used tools (compressor, nail guns, sawsall, etc) from Craigslist and Amazon while I made materials lists, estimated board-feet of lumber and plywood, and scanned the internet for FSC-approved flooring. I call this our Procrastiprepping Phase. Sure, buying an expensive trailer and ordering equally expensive windows is a financial commitment, but nothing says Point Of No Return like screwing down that first bit of floor joist.

There are so many things we did that qualified as Procrastiprepping:

  • Tool comparison shopping
  • Fretting
  • Sanitation Engineering Research (i.e., toilet shopping)
  • Visiting local lumber mills, without actually buying anything
  • Fruitlessly searching through ReStore’s stash of windows for even one that fits any of our plans
  • Ordering windows
  • More fretting
  • Comparing trailer leveling options
  • Buying several types of jacks, followed quickly by returning most of them
  • Setting up deck chairs on our empty trailer deck, drinking beer, and watching the sunset
  • Painstaking scheduling tasks on a Foreman Plan, so we can equally share decision-making duties and avoid fights
  • Immediately forget who’s in charge of the wall framing task and get in an intense fight over the relative merits of plywood vs. OSB for shearwalls

As this non-exhaustive list shows, we spent WAY too much time in the Procrastiprepping phase. Not to downplay the importance of planning, or even the fun of dreaming about a future tiny house, because I have a feeling that I’ll miss this stage, now that it’s over. Especially since it doesn’t involve splinters or sore knees. But no more Procrastiprepping. Last week, we Leveled:


As you can see, we have a pretty severe slope to build on, with the back of the trailer up just one and a half cinder blocks, and the front almost four blocks high. This is, unfortunately, the most level spot on our .34 acre property, so we’re working with what we’ve got. At some point, we’ll build stronger piers with more blocks to prevent shifting, but for now, it accomplishes the goals we need it to:

(I like lists, as you can tell)

  • Gets the tires off the ground, to prevent the rubber from rotting
  • Keeps the deck of the trailer objectively level, so our walls won’t be kerflunky (it’s a physics term)
  • Gives us enough space to get underneath for attaching the floor joists to the trailer deck. We’ll draw straws for that enviable task

Another early task Alan was most insistent on (funny when you think of all the times he leaves the front door unlocked… he grew up in a small town): Theft deterrence. Not something you hear a lot about in the tiny house community. Has anyone ever heard of a stolen tiny house? How would one fence a tiny dwelling? Well, here’s a look at our high-tech security system:


MMmm, rusty chain goodness! Personally, I feel if someone goes to the trouble of bringing a truck, backing up the crazy ditch/hill that is our front yard, and taking the trailer off all those blocks with their own screw jacks, they probably thought to bring a pair of bolt cutters too. But hey, I wasn’t the Foreman on this particular task, so none of my lip!

Your Turn!

  • How do you Procrastiprep?
  • What suggestions do you have for working together on a long-term project (that don’t involve elementary school group project techniques)?
  1. Procrastiprep! Sounds like me right now!! Research options but no decisions, get confused with different regulations regarding dwellings. Here in oz, We have three stages of government here each with their own regulations. Procrastiprep central!! Little bit of fretting, doubting, worrying and freaking in this as well. Tiny houses here are virtually non existent nobody has ever build a fencl, so there is no one I know who has gone before. So my procrastiprep includes lots of blog reading, and also fighting the what the hell am I doing!!

    • The “what the hell am I doing?!?” is a weekly occurrence for us. Luckily, we usually trade off. Either Alan’s all worried and I’m reassurance central, or he’s full of confidence and I’m stressed about our choices. Doubt will happen, but that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice for you. I don’t know why I’m surprised at the regulations you’re facing… I guess it’s uninformed cultural stereotypes on my part to expect the down under to be wild and free 🙂

      • Oh yes, they call us the nanny state!! Yesterday there was a news piece about government banning birthday cakes at preschools ( ages 6 months to 5 years) because its unhygienic to blow out a birthday candle!! Not kidding!!

        • lol At least the US isn’t alone in the state of crazy. As much as I love it here, it gets you to pulling out your hair on a regular basis.

    • Hi Beth. So nice to see another Aussie in Downunder Land who is interested in the tiny life. I am in the Procrastindream stage at the moment, and loving all the blogs that help me complete the larger picture in my head. Wether I’ll get there or not is a different question. At the very least, the blogs have started me on the quest to reduce my possessions, the stuff I haul around from place to place, the stuff that I cannot seem to find a place for in my larger place, and thinking about how I would need to give up a lot of the things that I enjoy, like my new home-theatre system and large plasma TV, dishwasher, hard copies of my music and movies (digitize it all with consequent trade-offs in quality), and how many of my building books (my main “habit”) I can part with. I started looking for land, just to see, and it’s either too expensive or a building block in a built-up area, with utilities that I am not interested in as the dream is off-grid. I’m only looking around Sydney at the moment as my life is in the city, but thinking always evolves, so I have no idea yet where I will end up. I also am in the “what the hell am I doing” stage, and actually wondering if it’s just something to fill up my spare hours, or something that has legs. Would be nice to get some sort of contact going with you, but don’t know how to connect as I don’t want to put my email up here for the world to see. Cheers

      • Glad another Aussie is on board, I too are in Sydney. Thought I would build it first them worry about where to live. I have a blog (another one for you to read) if you are interested. It’s still in early stages so excuse the lack of posts. You can contact me there. Decluttering is how I got started, realising i didnt need a physical and a digital copy of pride and prejudice! As well as trying to find a more affordable housing option in Sydney to combat all the price rises recently! The aim is not to be completely off grid but its looking like it will be semi off grid, if that is possible. Early stages yet!!

  2. I love the new vocabulary words: procrastiprepping & kerflunky. You’ll change tiny house vocabulary for sure with these. Good luck on your build; I’m looking forward to your next update.

    • Thanks, Carolyn! I’m excited Ryan gave me the chance to connect with such a cool, engaged community. Tiny house building can be an isolating experience for some people, and as you can probably tell, that’s not my personality at all.

  3. Go forth with mighty screw gun in hand. Never look back, or you’ll see something you forgot to pick up and will have to go back fo it. 🙂
    with a strong hand and healthy back anything can and will be accomplished. Go forth young woman and build!

    • Thanks, every bit of encouragement helps with those crazy self-doubting moments. And yay for Might Screw Guns!

  4. Procrastiprep is now firmly entrenched in my lexicon and has inspired “procrastiplan”, an earlier sibling. I’ve mostly gotten past the stage where every new idea and the latest fantastic tiny house send me scurrying to amend my plan, the material list is pretty much finalised and now it’s down to the nitpicky financial tweaking. Can I build this year or will inflation outpace any savings I can set aside for one more year? Should I buy materials now before the price jumps again (and again) or will theft and weather conspire against that? Is there any merit in getting my tiny house on a trailer in place before anybody decides to make that option a no-go, hopefully leaving my place grandfathered? Aaarrrgghhh!!!! Still, it’s closer than it was last year and that’s progress.

    I build alone most of the time and someone on one of the blogs recommended a book called Working Alone: Tips and Techniques for Solo Building by John Carroll Lots of good practical and safety info.

    • i have that book working alone. Very helpful. lots of good information. I’ll be using it when i build my house.

    • Ha! Alan has Working Alone on his nightstand right now. It makes me feel like a horrible wife 🙂

      There are just so many details, and I have to admit, despite my firmly entrenched feminism, Alan has shouldered the burden of the financial planning. I use the excuse of that being his career choice, but I’m also a bit feckless with money, relatively speaking. I’d be interested in hearing more about Tiny Financial Plans, myself.

  5. Do your car tires rot often? Seems like a weird concern to me. Also be sure to test you trailer on a road or flat surface once you get the walls up. A lot of flatbeds are actually bowed up in the middle (I think to accommodate heavy loads), and it will be important to see how the house will sit on the trailer as it rides, not just as it will be parked on jacks.

    • Thanks for the tip about testing the curvature of the trailer… I hadn’t thought about that, but now that you mention it, I’ve seen that on large flatbeds on the highway. As for the tire rot issue, I’ve worked/lived in the South long enough to see trailers sit for years and the rubber just shred from UV/dry rot. Not that ours is going to sit for decades, but if it helps the longevity just a bit, I’m willing to try a few old trailer park tricks. Also, we need it up high enough to get underneath and bolt the sub-floor to the trailer deck.

  6. When you get ready to pour the piers use sonotubes from one of the big boxes. Probably 3 pair would do ya. Put then just outside the wheel spacing and run 4×4’s from one side to the other. If it is going to be more permanent run cable up thru the frame and down into the 4xs.Good luck and use glue! be well;peace…dan

    • The 4×4 cross tie is a great idea, dan, thanks! We’re doing the leveling/piers today, so Alan and I will add that to our list for discussion.

  7. HUGE thanks for being so raw and real on what it takes to PRESS ON with the dream. I’m probably in my 2nd year (?) of AHEM, research, sketches, lists, etc for my TINY dream. Reading THIS today keeps it more real for me so thank you. OH but this has nothing to do with it, and I quote: “there was beer involved”….thank YOU so much for the clarity!!

    • Thanks, Rachel. Procrastination does not necessarily indicate a lack of commitment, at least for me. The planning stages are a legitimate (and super fun) part of this process, and not to be rushed. And some of my favorite life decisions were made with *ahem* lowered inhibitions 🙂

  8. Great topic! I love the term Procrastiprep. I think no matter what the project humans do tend to over prepare by thinking they are accomplishing something with the process. There comes a time when you just have to put down the books and pick up the drill. When people ask us how we got started building that is the first bit of advice I share.

    We had an interesting road to the tiny house since we lived three hours away from the build site. We be at home in Atlanta for two weeks thinking about what we needed to do when we got back to Asheville. Then we would get to the tiny house and start working but because we loved the town of Asheville so much we would talk ourselves into earlier stopping times so we could go have a beer in town. That might be one of the reasons it took us three years. That being said, I wouldn’t change a thing. For us the whole experience was an adventure. Now we live in the tiny house and get to spend as much time in Asheville as we want to so: WIN!

    • I adore Asheville! We camp at Pisgah campground at least once a year, and along with hiking to the fire tower, going into town for a local brew is always on the agenda. I can’t even imagine how distracted I’d be from building if I was doing it in a place like that.

      The Fish Or Cut Bait moment comes to different people at different times, so it’s always interesting to hear about people’s journeys. I’ll have to check out your website!

    • Alan here. Whoa…. The internet has come full circle. I think I read your blog about building your tiny house when I was in my procrastipreping phase. I was looking for someone nearby to Charlotte to meet up with and eventually I found your blog and Ryan’s.

      I think your tiny house was built on a solid foundation and you set up a solar panel cart for power. Was that you guys?

  9. My husband and I repeat a mantra when building times get tough; “we’re going to love each other, be kind to one another, and when one of us doesn’t understand what the other is talking about, we’re going to slow down and explain it again”. This has really helped us stay patient and calm when things get frustrating. Good luck with your build!

    • I second your mantra (although I wish I was better at enacting it), and would also add, showing is *so* much better than telling. Just saying, “I want to move the hold-downs up the wall stud 6 inches to compensate for the angle offset” isn’t nearly as effective as grabbing the darn piece of metal and slapping it on a 2×4.

  10. Your picture of a rusty chain run through the wheels and padlocked to itself is EXACTLY the picture I took last week of my trailer security system! Ha ha!

    I am buying a set of X-Chocks along with a commercial padlock for long-term security between the wheels AND another commercial padlock for the hitch.

    • Padlocking the hitch is a great idea. After all, if you can’t pull it, you can’t get away. We’ll look into that.

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